Why Nashville's Big Shocker Happened, According To Connie Britton

Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 8 of Nashville Season 5, "If Tomorrow Never Comes."

Nashville Season 5 has been an emotional rollercoaster, and last week's episode put leading lady Rayna James in the hospital with grave injuries. Still, she was very much alive at the end of the hour and was even in decent spirits through much of this week's episode. Actress Connie Britton brought as much warmth and heart to Rayna as always, and it was easy to believe that everything was going to be alright. Unfortunately, everything is not alright, and we can be sure that everything won't be entirely alright for the rest of the series. Rayna James really, actually, truly died on Nashville due to injuries from last week's car crash. Britton has now come out and addressed why Rayna's death happened, saying this:

It was my decision. It was something that, for various reasons, had been percolating for me. What was really important to me was that it felt like the right time. This summer, when the show went to CMT, it felt solid and stable. When Marshall came in, we had a conversation and he came up with the way this story would lay out. We both agreed -- and I said to him that what was most important to me was that we really do justice and honor the character and all of these characters and the world that we've been living in for these last five years.

Connie Britton shared her feelings on her departure from Nashville in a chat with THR, and it's clear that there was no bad blood that led to Rayna's death being written into Season 5. She and showrunner Marshall Herskovitz worked out a way to end Rayna's story in a way that was organic, heartbreaking, and in honor of the character's journey over the span of five years on the small screen. Her death will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest and most devastating plot twists of the series, and fans will probably be in mourning for a while, but at least we don't have to despair at how her death was handled.

nashville rayna connie britton

If you're anything like me, after the unexpected twist at the end of last week's "Stand Beside Me" and the promos that pointed toward big trouble for Rayna in "If Tomorrow Never Comes," you were expecting a pretty grim hour of television. Instead, Rayna started out the episode in a surprisingly good mood, all things considered. Her surgery went well, she was craving a cheeseburger, and she had a nice moment with Juliette...but all was not well. Despite doctors' assurances that she'd be healthy enough to go home to Deacon and her daughters in a few days, she began to hallucinate and speak to her mother, who had died years before. All too soon, Rayna's vitals crashed, and she passed away after one last song from her daughters.

In case this episode wasn't sad enough, the next looks like it'll be a real doozy as all of Rayna's loved ones try to process her death and honor her life in the best ways that they know how. Unfortunately, they'll run into some major problems that will make a difficult period even more difficult. Check out the trailer:

Tune in to CMT on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET to catch new episodes of Nashville. If the trailer is anything to go by, you may want to have a box of tissues handy for what happens next. Don't forget to check out our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else you can watch in the not-too-distant future.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).